Category Archives: History

The New York Housewife Who Was Too Pretty To Walk In The Streets In 1902 – She Had To Use A Gun and A Knife To Protect Herself

Ellen Emerson, So Beautiful, Lecherous Men Kept Accosting Her On The Streets Of New York In 1902

To Fight Them Off She Once Used A Gun, Another Time A Knife

But There’s A Twist At The End Of The Story

She could stop traffic, that is all male pedestrian traffic. Imagine being so attractive that every time you left your home you were the recipient of unwanted stares, comments and in the  worst case, groping.

In 1902 at 60 West 98th Street lived Ellen Emerson, who when she went out in public, men would constantly ogle her.

The undesired attention from men was so bad that she brandished a gun at one of her pursuers and a knife another time to protect herself from being accosted.

Within a space of four weeks Joseph Pulitzer’s Evening World did two stories about Mrs. Ellen Emerson. The first story which ran on November 8, 1902 told about Mrs. Emerson’s dilemma; “attractive and blonde and long the victim of ‘mashers.'”

Ellen told an unnamed reporter, “My life has been made a perfect burden for me  by these obnoxious men. I don’t know what there is about me. I am not a loud dresser, but I scarcely ever go on the street without being pursued.” Continue reading

1910 – Long Distance Telephone Rates From New York

In 1910 A Long Distance Call From New York City to Detroit, MI Was A Pricey $4.00 for the First 3 Minutes

Today phone calls are relatively inexpensive, but in 1910 making a 6 minute long distance call within the United States could cost you a week’s salary.

Reproduced above from the New York Telephone Directory of 1910 are the long distance rates from New York City to other cities.

In 1910 there were 7,084,000 telephones in the United States.

Long distance service was limited as you can see. There were few cities west of the Mississippi that you could call from New York. You want to call Houston, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle or Los Angeles? You’re out of luck.

The only way to communicate with many places would be to send a telegram.

Telegram rates varied by distance sent and had day and night rates. For a typical telegram you paid a flat rate for the first ten words and were charged a per word rate for each additional word. Address and signature were free. For example to send a telegram from New York to anywhere in Georgia was sixty cents for the first ten words and each additional word was four cents.

With telephone long distance prices being so expensive, you can see why people sent telegrams to communicate something urgent when the recipient was far away.

Expensive is a relative term but let’s take into account that the average weekly salary in 1910 was anywhere from about $10 for an average worker to $50 for a university professor. Continue reading

New York City By Day… & Night – 1904

Four New York Locations Photographed At Night – 1904

You’ve probably noticed that most of the old photographs of turn-of-the-century New York City were taken during daylight hours.

At the time the difficulty with night photography was the long exposure times necessary for a camera to effectively capture an image.

There is an extremely rare book I own called The Lighting of New York City put out by General Electric in 1904. The purpose of this publication was to extol the virtues of General Electric lighting apparatus and to encourage homes and businesses in New York and elsewhere to use electric light.

Electric lighting had been around for a little over 20 years, but the book mentions a startling fact: “It is estimated that more than 35,000 arc lamps are in use on Manhattan Island.”

35,000, that’s means outdoors and indoors.

Gaslight was still the predominant means of lighting streets, factories, stores, homes and the waterfront.

The 74 page book contains a photograph on every page accompanied by a short description on the opposite page. Eight of the photographs are day and night views of the exact same location.

Words in Italics are from the book:

At the 59th Street entrance to Central Park, in what is known as Park Plaza, the Sherman Statue was recently unveiled. It is illuminated at night by eight low energy General Electric arc lamps installed on ornamental poles in such a manner that only the pear-shaped outer globe is visible. The installation has received very favorable comment.

Behind the statue on the right is Park and Tilford, grocers to New York’s smart set. To the left on the corner of 60th Street is the Metropolitan Club.

Night illumination of the Sherman Statue by eight three-ampere low energy General Electric lamps. The white building directly in the rear is the home of the Metropolitan Club, so well known to many New Yorkers as the “Millionaires'” Club. Continue reading

Coney Island Celebrates The Anniversary Of The Hot Dog

Celebrating The Hot Dog, 1967 Style

It’s another anniversary for the hot dog.

But there probably won’t be a celebration like the one shown here from 1967.

Here is the original caption from the press photo:

Hot Dog!!!

New York: With a ferris wheel as a backdrop lovely Arlene Shaw, the 1967 National Hot Dog Queen holds a sign proclaiming the 100th anniversary of the fabled “frank.” Arlene will reign over a champagne “hot dog” party to be held on the boardwalk at Nathan’s in Coney Island June 30th celebrating the centennial of that extraordinary edible known as “Coney Island Red Hots.” credit: UPI 6/3/1967

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New York’s Problems And Why It Forced One Editor To Leave

What’s Wrong With New York City

This Essay By Stanley Walker, One Of The Finest Newspaper Editors In History, Will Strike Home For Anyone Who Has Ever Lived In New York

At the end of Walker’s essay we’ll reveal something remarkable about this story.

“I like to visit New York, but I wouldn’t live there if you gave it to me.” -OLD AMERICAN SAYING. Continue reading

What The Dickens! 7 Popular Sayings & How They Originated

You May Think The Saying “What The Dickens” Is Related To Novelist Charles Dickens (It’s Not.)

7 Famous Phrases And How They Came About.

Charles (Not “what the”) Dickens

Almost everyone uses slang or colloquial speech without ever thinking how did the words in the phrase come together?

Monumental arguments have ensued over simple sayings and many times there is no correct answer, merely an educated supposition.

The Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins Volume II by William and Mary Morris (1967) Harper & Row, contains what the authors believe to be the origins of hundreds of sayings. Here are seven of them. The words in italics are from the Morris’s book.

the real McCoy

The real McCoy” is heard a lot in those gangster films of the 30s and 40s. A saying that is still used today, the real McCoy has controversial origins.

The Real McCoy? Charles “Kid” McCoy

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May Day, New York City In The Past And Today

Those Old May Day Gatherings In New York

SOCIALISTS HOLD MAY DAY CELEBRATION IN CENTRAL PARK – Shown above is a general scene showing the large crowd of socialists as they listened to the speakers during the meeting held in Central Park, New York City on May Day. (May 1, 1935 credit: Acme)

Today is May Day which for anyone who went to elementary school in New York City pre-1980 used to be a joyous holiday, celebrated by dancing around a Maypole.

May Day, a centuries old Pagan holiday whose origins and meaning are debated, is now a day of protest. In many parts of England, Wales, Germany and a few other European countries, the Maypole dance and tradition continues. In the United States the day has sunk into a free-for-all for any group to call attention to all their perceived slights and injustices.

In the late 19th century May Day began to be associated with organized marches and assemblies for worker’s rights, unions and socialism. By the 1930s, communists took the day as theirs to celebrate.

Today you will not see any New York City school children doing Maypole dances.

Brooklyn May Day celebration 10,000 girls at Prospect Park 1919

You will not see the veterans of foreign wars praising the freedoms of the United States and protesting communists.

VETERANS HOLD RALLY ON MAY DAY – Photo shows general view of crowd in Union Square , New York City, scene of recent Communist riots, to participate in rally held by the Veterans of Foreign Wars on May 1st. Later the Reds held a demonstration at the same spot. (May 1, 1930 credit P&A photos)

You probably will not see Continue reading

How Much and What Types of Alcohol Did Americans Drink In The 19th Century?

19th Century Americans Loved Wine and Liquor, But Their Favorite Alcoholic Beverage Was Beer

Throughout much of the 19th century there were countless temperance movements in the United States to stop “the evils of drinking.”

I just bought a copy of The Liquor Problem in All Ages by Daniel Dorchester (1884). It’s a fascinating look at the history of alcohol. About half of the book covers the efforts to curb or eliminate alcohol consumption. The other half is an engaging history of the manufacture and use of alcohol throughout history across different cultures from all over the world.

One very interesting chart shows which alcoholic beverages Americans were consuming decade by decade from 1792 – 1882 and it is reproduced below (click to enlarge):

In the 1790s American distilled spirits (whiskey, gin, rye, bourbon, etc.) was the most consumed alcoholic liquor. Over 65 million gallons of the hard stuff was consumed by Americans.

As the U.S. population grew and the 1800’s progressed, we see a steady rise in the consumption of American distilled spirits.

American wine, foreign wine and foreign distilled spirits consumption are proportionately increased to some degree from 1792 – 1882.

The rise of malt liquor (in this context the book is referring to beer) consumption explodes in the 1850s nearly matching American spirit consumption. From 1860-1870 beer doubled its popularity from the previous decade. From 1870-1882 beer consumption had reached over 4 billion gallons, more than four times all other alcohol types combined. Continue reading

Historic List Of Every Hotel In New York In 1882

In 1882 A Visitor To New York City Could Stay At Frankenstein’s –

A Complete List of Every (Reputable) Hotel In New York City In 1882

And How They Were Advertised

A few years ago we published a list of every hotel in Manhattan in 1964. That list has proven to be useful for many people.

So we decided to go all the way back to 1882 and provide a list of all the hotels in New York City. According to Phillips’ Business Directory for New York City 1881-1882, there were a total of 165 reputable hotels.

Looking over the list you may notice the street with the most hotels is Broadway. West Street with 26 hotels, was second in number. This is because of the many ships docking along the Hudson. Ritzy Fifth Avenue had only 14 hotels.

There are many sole proprietor hotels and some with names  you would not use today for a hotel, like Frankenstein’s Hotel located at 413 Broome Street and Crooks Hotel at 84 Chatham.

One hotel, Goodiwin’s, was located on 13th Avenue, a defunct avenue name which ran for about a mile alongside the Hudson River waterfront from just below Bank Street up to 26th Street.

The most famous hotels such as Astor House, Fifth Avenue Hotel and Hoffman House, are all gone. So it may come as no surprise, but not one New York City hotel from this 1882 list is still in business.

However a few of the buildings that once were hotels in 1882 remain.

The Hotel St. Stephen was incorporated into the Hotel Albert on East 11the Street. Its original facade vanished in the 1920s and The Albert is now a co-op residential building.

Gilsey House (built 1867) still exists at its original location on Broadway and 29th Street was converted into apartments. The Saint Denis Hotel was drastically altered many years ago and was converted into offices.

A key to the list: , c= corner of; prop= proprietor

Aberdeen, 917 B’way
Aberle Jacob, 145 8th
Albemarle, 1101 B’way
Albion, 133 8th
Anchor Line, 124 West
Anson House, 79 Spring
Anthony, 834 B’way
Ashland House, 315 4th av
Astor House, (Allen & Dam), 225 B’way. On the European plan
Atlantic Hotel, John Gerken, prop., 63 New Bowery
Baar Fred., 228 & 275 West & 164 South
Beauce Edward, 87 Clinton pl
Becker, F. W., 103 Bleecker
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The Last Two Of The Dionne Quintuplets Want To Keep Their Family Home Where It Is

The Remaining Dionne Quintuplets, Once The Most Famous Siblings in the World, Want To Keep Their Childhood Home In The Small Canadian Town Where They Grew Up

“Hark The Herald Angles Sing” The Dionne Quintupplets, who have shown marked aptitude for music, delighted in singing Christmas carols with their nurses. They sang in French, of course, for their education in English has not begun. The girls have “singing class” daily. They listen to phonograph records as they lie in bed for the 15-minute rest periods preceding mid-day and evening meals. Front: Annette (l), Emelie. Rear (l to r) : Marie, Cecile, Yvonne. photo: Acme December 26, 1939

The two remaining Dionne Quintuplets have kept a low profile in recent years, but they have come out of their solitude to try and save their childhood home from being moved.

Forget the Kardashians, in comparison to the Dionne’s they would rank obscure. If you are under the age of 50 there is an excellent chance you have never heard of the Dionne quintuplets. But during the 1930s until the early 1940s they were known to everyone, being the most famous siblings in the world.

(UPDATE 4-5-17 – North Bay City Council Reverses Decision To Move Home…For Now)

They were incredibly cute and adorable. And everything they did was photographed, filmed, broadcast and written about.

The identical Dionne sisters were the first known quintuplets to survive infancy. The quintuplets were born May 28, 1934 in a remote village farmhouse in the area of North Bay, near Callendar, Ontario, Canada to poor, uneducated parents Oliva-Edouard and Elzire Dionne. The Dionne’s had five children previously to the quintuplets birth. Continue reading